Monday, October 19

What’s More Festive Than a Small Town at Christmas?

The Wranglers are happy to welcome guest author Alison Henderson to the round corral today. I've
read (and loved) her book of Christmas short stories and am so glad she's come to tell you about it! - Liz

By Alison Henderson

We’re more than half-way through October, so are we all ready to start thinking about Christmas? I want to thank Liz and the other WordWranglers for inviting me to join you today to introduce my new short story collection Small Town Christmas Tales: Ten Short Holiday Romances.

I’m a city girl, born and bred, but like so many readers, I love small town romances. I love the idea of a community where neighbors help neighbors, where, for better or worse, everybody knows your name. Many authors of small town romance set a whole series of books in the same town their readers have grown to love, but just for fun, in Small Town Christmas Tales, I did the opposite. I wrote ten short Christmas romances, each set in a different town in a different state across the country, from coast to coast.

Setting is always one of the most important aspects of my full-length books, so choosing the settings for these stories was critical. I enjoy research, but for authenticity I like to use places I’m familiar with, places I’ve either lived or visited. Fortunately, I’ve traveled quite a bit and soaked up visual details along the way. For example, the setting of Christmas 2.0 is based on the small, upstate New York town where I went to college. I lived in Minnesota for twenty-five years, so Let it Snow and Penguins, Pucks, and Pumpkin Pies take place in the upper Midwest. And Second Hand Hearts is set on the central coast of California, where I live now. Each town is fictional but has enough realistic detail to make the reader feel at home

Then there was the challenge of finding just the right names for my small towns. I began
each search with a map of the appropriate state. I wanted a name that evoked the area but was not an existing town. In Penguins, Pucks, and Pumpkin Pies, I settled on Pumpkinseed Lake, because western Wisconsin is dotted with small lakes, and believe it or not, the pumpkinseed is a fish native to the area. Hawthorne Springs, Missouri—the town in Mistletoe and Misdemeanors—was named after the state flower. Oldebroek, New York, the setting for Christmas 2.0, is named after a town in the Netherlands and is intended to speak to the area’s Dutch roots. I based the town of Hard Luck, Wyoming in A Hard Luck Christmas on the real-life town of Lusk after an Easter Sunday stop when my husband and I were driving from Minnesota to California for our big cross-country move a few years ago.

I had tremendous fun creating the towns in these stories, and I invite you to check out Small Town Christmas Tales to read more about them. Sometimes humorous and sometimes poignant, these stories are sure to put you in a holiday mood.

Here’s the opening of Mistletoe and Misdemeanors to give you a taste:

This was the last place she expected to spend Christmas. Callie Rayburn glanced around the puke-green cinder block cell in the basement of the Hawthorne Springs, Missouri police station. In jail for Christmas. It figured, given the downward spiral her life had taken during the past twenty-four hours.
A tear slid down the side of her nose. She dashed it away with the back of her hand and snuffled. She didn’t even have a tissue because that jerk Billy Freeman had taken her purse. What kind of town let a pubescent little snot like Billy Freeman wear a badge and carry a gun? It seemed like just last week she’d babysat him and his obnoxious younger brother to earn enough money to buy her dream dress for the senior prom.
Another tear followed the track of the first. If Billy Freeman was old enough to be a police officer, what did that make her? Ancient. Over the hill. Thirty years old with nothing to show for it. Two days ago she’d been living the high life in St. Louis with a job, a cute apartment she couldn’t afford, and a future. Today—zip, nada, bupkis. And now, to tie the whole thing up with a big fluffy bow, she’d been arrested by Billy Freeman for breaking and entering. Un-freaking-believable.
Disgusted, she pulled out of her slouch and straightened her spine. If Officer Billy thought she was going to take this lying down, he had a lot to learn. She might have temporarily sunk to the level of pathetic loser, but heaven help her, she would sleep in her car before she spent Christmas Eve in a jail cell.
Callie shot another glance around her barren surroundings. Where was a tin cup when you needed one? Wasn’t that what prisoners used in the old movies? She’d have to settle for her shoe. She was lucky this pair didn’t have laces—Billy probably would have taken them to keep her from hanging herself.
She slipped off one sleek black ankle boot and thumped it against the metal bars, wincing at the resulting scuff that marred the smooth surface. Damn. She loved those boots. She hadn’t even paid the credit card charge for them yet.

In this story, Callie sports a favorite pair of loud Christmas socks on Christmas morning. I’ll be giving this pair of fun holiday socks to one lucky commenter, so please tell me, what is your most unusual Christmas memory?



  1. Welcome to the round corral, Alison, and good luck with the book. I LOVED it!

  2. thanks for visiting us today, Alison! Wishing you manymanymanymany sales!

  3. You did a great job of naming your towns. I loved these "feel good" stories!

    1. I had a lot of fun with these towns. And I think we all need to feel good as often as possible!

  4. Naming towns is a hard thing--you did a wonderful Job, Alison! Thanks for stopping by the Word Wranglers. Loved having you!! And I'm looking forward to reading your stories. Christmas stories are fast becoming favorites of mine!

  5. What a great post, Alison. I always enjoy the "behind the scenes" look at movies, TV shows, and especially books. I love this collection of stories. So heartwarming.

    1. Behind-the-scenes looks are always fun. Thanks, Diane.

  6. I love the behind the scenes stuff, too. And, like you, I'm a city girl but love setting stories in small towns. Fun stuff...and your stories look awesome. On my TBR list for sure!

    1. I wonder if genuine small town residents love them as much as we do. LOL